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X-Factor! Check out some UFC Nashville main card predictions | Sandhagen vs. Font

UFC 288: Nzechukwu v Clark Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This weekend (Sat., Aug. 5, 2023), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., for UFC Nashville. Though the loss of Umar Nurmagomedov certainly hurts, replacements don’t come much more exciting than Rob Font. His fight versus Cory Sandhagen tops the card, and it’s a guarantee war for however long it lasts. Former champion, Jessica Andrade, returns to action opposite top prospect, Tatiana Suarez, as well, establishing high stakes for the top pair of bouts.

Prior to those marquee match ups, there’s some good fun and strong prospects. Let’s dig into all the main card fights leading up to the main event:

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 83 On ESPN+

TOP 15-RANKED BANTAMWEIGHT BATTLE! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns home to “Sin City” on Sat., Dec. 9, 2023, with a 135-pound main event showdown between top-seeded division contenders, Yadong Song (No. 7) and Chris Gutierrez (No. 15), with the winner looking to make a potential run at the Bantamweight belt in 2024. In UFC Vegas 83’s co-main event, former Light Heavyweight title challenger, Anthony Smith, steps up on short notice to lock horns with the surging Khalil Rountree Jr.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Strawweight: Jessica Andrade vs. Tatiana Suarez

Best Win for Andrade? Rose Namajunas For Suarez? Carla Esparza
Current Streak: Andrade has lost two in a row, while Suarez is undefeated as a pro (9-0)
X-Factor: Andrade got KTFO less than three months ago!
How these two match up: This Strawweight war carries major title implications.

Andrade’s risk-taking backfired in more ways than one recently. First, she jumped in on short-notice against Erin Blanchfield back up at 125-pounds, and she got strangled for her bravery. Then, she tried to march down Yan Xiaonan and got cracked for her efforts. Still, Andrade remains a powerhouse with dangerous submission skills.

Conversely, Suarez was clearly on the route to belt until injuries sidelined her for nearly four years. Prior to returning, Suarez was a nearly unstoppable wrestler, but she has yet to prove she remains at that level against top competition.

Were it still 2019, I would have sided with Suarez in a heartbeat. She truly looked unbeatable, the rare situation where Khabib comparisons were not baseless. A whole bunch of surgeries later, I am distinctly less confident. We’ve all seen wrestlers hamstrung by a wonky knee or bad back, and at 32, we’re starting to enter now-or-never territory for Suarez.

Even so, I’ll back her here. The book is written on Andrade, who has never fared well when placed on her back. Suarez isn’t going to back up, which tends to be when the Brazilian’s best shots land. Instead, she’ll get wrestling right away, and based on recent history, Andrade will make a mistake on bottom.

Prediction: Suarez via submission

Light Heavyweight: Dustin Jacoby vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu

Best Win for Jacoby? Michal Oleksiejczuk For Nzechukwu? Ion Cutelaba
Current Streak: Jacoby has lost two in a row, whereas Nzechukwu has won three straight
X-Factor: Nzechukwu is continually improving
How these two match up: I don’t see how this isn’t a stand up war.

Jacoby fell flat in his first UFC stint, but he developed his skills as a professional kickboxer before returning to the Octagon up a weight class. He’s now a more powerful and composed striker, and his takedown defense has come a long way as well, making him a solid gatekeeper to the top portion of the division.

Nzechukwu, meanwhile, is a major physical talent still learning to use all his tools. He’s at his best when swarming opponents in close distance, where his size and strength are most effective at creating major collisions.

This match up reminds me of a famous Royce Gracie quote, “A black belt only covers two inches of your ass. You have to cover the rest.” That’s how I feel about Jacoby’s professional kickboxing experience in this regard. Sure, it sounds great on paper, but will it matter much when he’s a little tired, and Nzechukwu is in his face, throwing hard elbows and punches-in-bunches?

I think not. Nzechukwu has overcome strikers more technical than himself previously, and he’s riding good momentum into this one. Likely, “The African Savage” keeps it going here and continues another rung up the rankings.

Prediction: Nzechukwu via decision

Featherweight: Diego Lopes vs. Gavin Tucker

Best Win for Lopes? Rony Jason For Tucker? Billy Quarantillo
Current Streak: Both men lost their last bout
X-Factor: Lopes is a serious finishing threat
How these two match up: Oh yeah, this should be a ton of fun!

Lopes impressed everyone with his short-notice debut against Movsar Evloev, taking it to the unbeaten Russian on the feet and on the floor. He spent a little too much time on bottom and grew fatigued as the fight wore on, but it was still a top-notch debut given the level of competition and preparation. Tucker has proven himself a very skilled combatant in a fairly small amount of fights. A jiu-jitsu black belt with effective wrestler and good kickboxing offense from both stances, Tucker is comfortable wherever the fight goes.

There are two paths to victory for Tucker here. On one hand, he could look to wrestle and navigate the dangerous waters of Lopes’ guard. Alternatively, he could keep his distance, deny any takedowns that come his way, and try to outwork the Brazilian newcomer.

Both could work, but both feel very dangerous. Lopes just appears to be the more serious finishing threat. He’s also nearly a decade younger and has significant advantages in height and reach. It’s a match up where Tucker will have to be perfect, whereas Lopes just needs to find one big moment to shift the fight in his favor.

Prediction: Lopes via submission

Light Heavyweight: Tanner Boser vs. Aleksa Camur

Best Win for Boser? Ovince Saint Preux For Camur? Justin Ledet
Current Streak: Both have lost two in a row
X-Factor: Boser is still new to Light Heavyweight
How these two match up: This feels more bottom-of-the-barrel than the other fights on the card.

Boser has lost four of his last five fights, mostly in underwhelming fashion. He’s got a good distance kickboxing game that capitalizes on his quickness — an advantage his drop to Light Heavyweight may have eliminated — but his takedown defense remains a liability. Camur, conversely, is best known for being Stipe Miocic’s training partner. He’s not accomplished much yet in his short UFC career, but he’s proven himself a decent striker with finishing power.

It’s worrying that Boser was pretty quickly dispatched by an Ion Cutelaba 1-2. If he can’t handle the speed of smaller men, his size advantage is going to mean very little. After all, Boser is not a huge hitter himself. Mostly, he relies on volume and distance striking to win decisions, occasionally sitting down more on counter shots.

Fortunately, Camur is a good test for whether this Light Heavyweight idea has any legs. If Boser gets cracked here, it’s time to beef back up. More likely, he’s able to play the outskirts of the Octagon well, and Camur’s own aggression and volume will lead him into the heaviest shots of the night.

Prediction: Boser via decision

Lightweight: Ignacio Bahamondes vs. Ludovit Klein

Best Win for Bahamondes? Roosevelt Roberts For Klein? Mason Jones
Current Streak: Bahamondes has won three straight, while Klein is unbeaten in his last three
X-Factor: Can Klein get his wresting going?
How these two match up: Lightweights on the rise will throw down.

Bahamondes has unexpectedly turned into a pretty exciting prospect. The 25-year-old Chilean talent throws an absurd amount of strikes, putting the pace on his opponents and throwing shots from all ranges. Klein is a quality striker himself, a Southpaw who can advance or counter fluidly. Of the two, he’s also more likely to mix a takedown into his arsenal.

The question here is whether or not Klein’s footwork is good enough to allow him to pick and choose when to engage with Bahamondes. Neither seems likely to stop the other, which means that in a likely kickboxing match, volume is king. Historically, Bahamondes throws much more, so it’s up to Klein to limit exchanges, land the bigger shots, and punish Bahamondes for his aggression.

Can he get it done? Maybe. John Makdessi managed it, and he’s not a world beater. Still, Bahamondes’ edges in reach and volume are going to be difficult to overcome fully. Truthfully, I expect a really close fight, one where one or two big lands sway the judges.

Prediction: Bahamondes via decision

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2023: 25-24-1 (2)

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Nashville fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 9 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Nashville: “Sandhagen vs. Font” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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